Last time I went on holiday, where I was away from any data or internet connections for around seven days, I dreaded checking my e-mail inbox on return. 104 e-mails, twelve Facebook notifications, two voicemails, and God knows how many Tweets – I didn’t even try to catch up on those. With so much work correspondence floating around, I barely have time to check personal messages even when I’m at home, never mind after taking a break.
This is where Sounder comes in, a new app which is designed to ease the load of messages, IMs, Tweets, status updates, voicemails and texts. The app is free, and allows users to choose a few important Facebook friends, who can then be spoken to directly at the simple push of a button. The app utilises VoIP (Voice over IP), which basically means it works in a similar way to Skype by sending voice communications over the internet, rather than a phone connection. Currently, Sounder’s only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, though there are iPad and Android versions currently being developed.
At this point, you might be wondering what the difference is between Sounder and Skype, an established app that allows users to ‘call’ friends over VoIP, just like you might usually do with a phone. Well, Sounder is really just for very close, personal friends. It’s not something you want to go giving out to everyone you know. With Sounder, you don’t have to ‘call’ the other person – you simply press a button, and you’re connected. In other words, provided the recipient has already ‘accepted’ your Sounder invitation, whenever you call them you’ll be put straight through to their phones, without any ‘picking up’ necessary.
This is certainly a new idea, but it’s difficult to see how well it’s going to go down. On the one hand, it gets you in touch without beating around the bush; it also might be quite handy for hands-free calls while driving or cooking – I can’t count the number of times I’ve frantically scraped tomato sauce off my fingers only to miss the call in the end. And yet, it still sounds pretty crazy to me. I can really only think of one person that I would never ignore a call from, and even then, there are times when it’s just inappropriate to take one. There will be options on the phone to disable Sounder for a short time, but if this happens regularly, Sounder will fail to be any more efficient for getting in touch than Skype.
Sounder is an interesting idea, and it’s one I suspect Mark Zuckerberg would be proud of – the notion that our lives should always be open for other people to ‘connect’ with us – but I’ll wait and see whether it catches on. I suspect it’ll be popular in niche markets, but the majority of us – who likes to keep our own space – might find it a little too invasive.